Remember 1976? The Bicentennial Year?
Gerald Ford was president, disco ruled and the Cincinnati Reds were the Big Red Machine. Thurman Munson was the American League Most Valuable Player.
And Miami football wasn’t Miami football.
Oh, they had a football team. But they were not yet the U. National championships, Heisman trophies and turnover chains were in the future.
So, when Duke went south to play Miami for the first time, on October 9, Duke wasn’t playing an 800-pound gorilla, just another struggling football program.
The Hurricanes did have some football tradition. Ted Hendricks--the Mad Stork--finished at Miami in 1968. George Mira was an All-America quarterback in the early 1960s. Hall of Fame center Jim Otto played for Miami in the 1950s.
But Miami only finished in the final AP top-10 twice prior to the 1980s, sixth in 1956 and ninth in 1966. But for every 8-1-1 in 1956, they had a 2-8 two years later. The Hurricanes went into the 1976 season on an eight-season run with no more than six wins. This was the second and final season of the forgettable Bill Selmer era.
Selmer was Miami’s fifth coach in the 1970s.
Duke also was a traditional power trying to find itself. Mike McGee was in his fifth season at Duke and he had some talent, including quarterback Mike Dunn, linebacker Carl McGee, center Billy Bryan, wide receiver Tom Hall and safety Bob Grupp.
The Blue Devils went into the game 2-2, wins over Tennessee and Virginia, losses to South Carolina and eventual NCAA title-winner Pittsburgh and Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett.
Miami was 1-2.
The announced crowd was only 13,000 and Duke almost sent them home early, with an explosive start.
Dunn led Duke to an early TD-drive, hitting fullback Tony Benjamin with a 29-yard strike and connecting twice with Hall.
Tailback Art Gore finished the 16-play, 75-yard drive from three yards out and Vince Fusco made it 7-0 with the PAT.
McGee is generally remembered as a conservative coach but he would roll the dice on occasion and he rolled them later in the half.
After a stalled drive, Fusco hit a field goal, to put Duke up 10-0. But the Hurricanes were flagged for offsides-one of their 12 penalties that Saturday night.
McGee accepted the penalty, giving Duke a first down but taking three points off the board.
Benjamin scored from the one a few plays later and Duke led 14-0.
Miami did have one weapon, future all-NFL running back Ottis Anderson, who keyed a touchdown drive that made it 14-7.
The home team missed a chance to further cut into the lead, driving to the Duke 18 late in the first half only to have the clock run out due to clock mismanagement.
Miami didn’t come close to scoring again. Late in the first half they lost starting quarterback E.J. Baker to an injury and their offense stalled in his absence.
McGee reverted to form after intermission, playing it close to the vest. After completing three passes on Duke’s opening drive, Dunn ended the game 7-for-13 passing, for 83 yards. But Duke didn’t turn it over all night and added two second-half field goals, the second after Miami fumbled a punt deep in their own territory.
It ended 20-7.
Duke finished the season 5-5-1, Miami 3-8.
Selmer was dismissed after the season, replaced by none other than Lou Saban, who went 9-13 in two seasons, before being replaced by Howard Schellenberger, under whose tutelage Miami football became nationally dominant.
It was seven years before Duke played Miami again. It was at Wallace Wade but that didn’t help, as Bernie Kosar shredded Duke’s defense to the tune of 56-17.
That 1983 Miami team ended the season as national champions, after a pulsating 31-30 win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
That was it until Miami joined the ACC in 2005. Duke has visited Miami six times since then, losing all six, the closest a 24-14 Miami win in 2007, Ted Roof’s last season at Duke.
Duke goes to Miami again, an underdog, hoping to end a streak that runs either six games or 42 years, depending on your perspective.
But too long, in either case.
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